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(5) The Address to the Church in Sardis (Rev 3:1-6)
To this church the Lord is presented as the One "that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars." However much Romanism may have assumed "power over the nations," it still remains true that the fulness of power, set forth by "the seven Spirits of God," is with the Lord; and, however great the departure from the truth, there are those, symbolised by the seven stars, through whom He can give heavenly light to His people. Thus we know that in spite of the power and assumption of Rome, there arose those who withstood the evils of this system. Alas! whatever resistance to error, and whatever revival of truth there was in this movement, which we speak of as the Reformation, in the hands of man it has broken down. As ever man fails in responsibility. The result has been the development of Protestantism which has indeed "a name" that it lives, and thus stands for the truth before men, but the Lord has to say, as to fact, that in His sight, "Thou . . . art dead." We may, indeed, be thankful that through this stand against Romanism an open Bible has been won for God's people and the great truth of justification by faith re-asserted. But, alas! content with mere orthodoxy, the Bible has become to the mass little more than a dead letter, and its truths not being received in personal faith, leave the lives of the mass unchanged. One has said, "Nothing is more common among Protestants than to admit a thing to be perfectly true because it is in the word of God, without the smallest intention of acting upon it."1Th 5:2-6).
Nevertheless, as in corrupt and idolatrous Romanism there is found a devoted remnant, so amongst the dead orthodoxy of Protestantism there are "a few names" that form a remnant, of whom the Lord can say that they "have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy." In the midst of a lifeless profession they personally walked with Christ, and their names will be retained in the book of life, and publicly owned before the Father and His angels.Rev 3:7-13)
To this assembly the Lord does not present Himself in a judicial aspect as about to judge, nor in an official way as directing the assemblies, but rather in His moral attributes as "the Holy" and "the True." This is blessedly in keeping with the moral condition of the assembly of whom the Lord can say, thou "hast kept my word, and hast not denied my Name." In the midst of general departure they cherished and obeyed the Lord's word, and above all they jealously maintained the glory of the Person of Christ, and refused every "denial" of His Name.Rev 3:14-22)
In the last address we learn the solemn end of the increasing failure of the church in responsibility throughout the whole church period. We see, too, how the reviving grace of the Lord has been abused, and how little His warnings have been heeded. Nevertheless, we learn that amidst all the failure the Lord remains the unchanging resource of His people, and that in the darkest day there is richest blessing for the individual believer.
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Revelation 3". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter